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Dear Arrighi,

I was wondering about the order of the ABC's. When did it come about and where did it start?


Abecedary Inquirer

Dear Abecedarian,

I thought this would be an easy one but with some inquiries and a lot of research I find it to be an interesting and elusive question.

I find the best and most detailed information in Donald M. Anderson's book, "Calligraphy, The Art of Written Forms". The alphabet actually gets its name from the first two letters of the Greeks; alpha and beta.

But we must go back to the Phoenicians who developed some of the first alphabetic script about 1800 B.C. Anderson states that no one has actually found an ABC sequence of this period in any archelogical find that was more than a few letters but we assume the order was formed for perhaps a mnemonic, (intended to assist the memory) or its been speculated that it had something to do with the importance of what the symbols represented.

Although M or MEM is the symbol for water which is way down the line from B or BETH for throwing stick so I don't know!

Another thought is that they were phonetically grouped. The Hebrew and Greek developed from the Phoenician and both had an established order: Aleph, Beth, Gimel------Alpha, Beta, Gamma-----A, B, C.

David Diringer, in he Story of Alpeh Beth, calls the whole subject a "twilight between conjecture and certainty".



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